Alternate Names : Aortic Insufficiency
Aortic regurgitation is a condition in which blood flows backwards
into the left side of the heart through the aortic valve. The aortic valve is a
flap-like opening located between the left side of the heart and the aorta. The
aorta is the main artery carrying blood from the heart.
What is going on in the body?
The heart is divided into two halves, right and left. Each side has a pumping
chamber, called a ventricle. The left ventricle receives blood from the lungs.
During a heartbeat, the left heart chamber squeezes, generating enough pressure
to open the aortic valve. Blood from the left side is then pumped into the
aorta and out into the body for general circulation. As the left heart chamber
empties, the aortic valve closes.
In a normal heart, the valve seals shut, and no blood is allowed to flow back
into the left side. But when the aortic valve is abnormal, blood does flow
backwards. This causes blood to flow into the left heart chamber from two
sources. The first source is from the lungs, which is normal. The second source
is from the backflow of blood across the leaky aortic valve. When the heart
receives this excess amount of blood, the left side must work harder. This
excess work can stress the left side of the heart and cause it to enlarge. This
damage can happen slowly over time, or can get worse rather quickly.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
There are many causes of aortic regurgitation. Some of the more common ones
ankylosing spondylitis, a spinal disorder
aortic dissection, a tear in the aorta that allows blood to flow
between the inner and outer layers
congenital heart defects that are present at
high blood pressure
infective endocarditis, an infection in the valves or lining of the
Marfan syndrome, an inherited disease that weakens body tissues
Reiter syndrome, an arthritic disorder that affects adult males
rheumatic fever, a disease that can cause arthritis and
which also causes joint pain and swelling
syphilis, a sexually
transmitted disease (STD)
autoimmune disorder in which the person creates antibodies against
his or her own tissues